A few months ago, the Pew Research Center released new information about the American family. Continuing a trend, the surveys showed that 41 percent of American children are being raised by single mothers. Among African-Americans, the figure is 72 percent; and among Hispanics, the figure is 53 percent. Pew also revealed that 44 percent of today’s single mothers have never been married.
What this means for Scouting: More and more boys and young men need the male role models, mentoring, structure and values Scouting provides. And many single mothers are reaching out to the BSA to make sure their boys get those life-enhancing benefits.
“It’s hard enough for two parents to raise kids on top of careers and other activities,” says Lou Sandoval, a Chicago Area Council commissioner. “I can only imagine how difficult it is for single parents to do that alone, especially if they live in an area where they don’t have a lot of family support.”
The good news, Sandoval says, is that Scouting can help fill that vacuum in single-parent homes. “During the kids’ school years, Scouting provides an activity structure to keep them active, engaged and focused on constructive things,” he says. “Long term, Scouting may also help to provide vocational opportunities or at least an awareness of them.”
To find out more about Scouting’s impact on boys raised in single-parent homes, we asked three single moms to sound off about the benefits of the BSA:
Tara Scarborough of Abingdon, Va., mother of Daniel, 18, Eagle Scout. Scarborough’s brother was a Scout for a few years during their childhood, but otherwise she had no prior experience with Scouting.
“I’m a single mom, and I will be the first to say a boy needs a male role model. It’s a guy thing. They have to go get muddy and bloody and whatever else it is they do on campouts. They need to be around testosterone, not just estrogen. Men’s brains are wired differently from women’s, and the boys need both perspectives.
“People who know Daniel know that Scouting’s had a great effect on him. He may not be the perfect example of the stereotypical ‘perfect’ Eagle, but I shudder to think where he would be if he hadn’t had Scouts and Scoutmasters to influence him along the way. It was what he needed. It has kept him on track.”
Rachel Vlach of Berwyn, Ill., mother of Malaikai, 8, Cub Scout. Vlach is from a Scouting family, so it was “a natural thing” to involve her son in the program.
“[Malaikai’s] father left us when he was 4, so he’s learned things from the male leaders that I couldn’t teach him. He’s learned some of the respect for men and how to see men in a positive light — not just like someone who will leave. He really attaches himself to the male leaders in the group. When he sees our Cub pack leader’s husband, he’ll just run up to him and give him a hug and say, ‘How you doing?’
“He has ADHD, but at the meetings, he’s always listening, very attentive, does everything he should. He’s calm, cool and collected there. He can’t wait to get into Boy Scouts so he can go camping. He’s made two great friends, and the three of them say they’re going to become Eagle Scouts together.”
Karen Neimanas, of Chicago, Ill., mother of Jake, 20, Eagle Scout and Venturer. Neimanas had no prior experience with Scouting before her son became involved.
“Jake’s father passed away six years ago. He was an alcoholic, so there were lots of challenges at home. But Jake had started in Scouts at 7, and he stayed with it and moved through the ranks. Scouting gave him a chance to see what different men do in positive ways to be involved in children’s lives.
“He has just gone to work as a licensed emergency medical technician, and I’m convinced that without Boy Scouts, he would not have been interested in that. When he learned the lifesaving and survival skills, he really liked it. Scouting provided an easy transition to the role of a first responder and someone who takes leadership. I just wish everyone could see the value of the Boy Scout program. I’m so glad he loved it and stayed with it.”